Synthetic biology startup Ginkgo Bioworks gets $45 million in new funding

Intern Ramya Prathuri inoculating yeast cultures at Gingko's South Boston lab.
Intern Ramya Prathuri inoculating yeast cultures at Gingko's South Boston lab.

Ginkgo Bioworks is announcing a major new funding round this week, led by Connecticut hedge fund Viking Global. The South Boston startup has raised $45 million, less than four months after announcing a $9 million funding round.

Ginkgo is an MIT spinoff which designs custom-crafted bacteria that can crank out flavors, fragrances, sweeteners, and other ingredients of interest to manufacturers. I covered Ginkgo in March. The company, founded in 2008, was the first biotech business to participate in the well-regarded Y Combinator accelerator program for startups, last year. Ginkgo’s founders include Tom Knight, a former senior researcher at MIT who is considered one of the pioneers of synthetic biology; and MIT alums Jason Kelly, Reshma Shetty, Barry Canton, and Austin Che.

Ginkgo’s new cash will be used for hiring and to enhance the company’s highly automated production facility, as well as to begin tackling new categories like pharmaceuticals, probiotics, and cosmetics.

Ginkgo says it has so far signed more than 20 “organism design” contracts with customers. Those projects include work on organic pesticides with an agriculture company; developing sweeteners for a major beverage company; and creating rose oils for Robertet, a French fragrance company. CEO Jason Kelly says that he expects the first products made by Ginkgo-crafted organisms “to be sold by our partners by the end of the year, or first quarter of 2016.”

Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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